Shoaib Mansoor: Working with Naseeruddin was a 'treat'
The film, being released on 4th April which is almost nine months after its release in the country of its origin, has been directed by Shoaib Mansoor, a well known television producer who has also written the story and some of the lyrics of the film. The film's highlight is a guest appearance by Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah as Maulana Wali, a renowned Muslim cleric.
The Pakistan Government had imposed a ban on import of Indian films in 1968, but lifted it early this year on the condition that for each Indian film released in Pakistan, an Urdu film from that country would be released in India.
The film, which is about the dilemma that Muslims and Pakistanis are faced with after the 9/11 incidents, is perhaps the boldest attempt so far in Pakistan to deal with the issue. It also stars Shaan and Fawad Afzal Khan in the two main roles with Iman Ali and American stage actress Austin Marie Sayre, apart from Larry Neumann, Hameed Sheikh, Angela Williams and Alex Edwards.
Shoaib Mansoor told in a brief interview on the sidelines of a press screening that he had some difficulty raising funds for the film since it is nothing like the usual potboilers that are churned out in Bollywood or Lollywood (Lahore).
But he said he never had any apprehensions about giving up. He said there were some fears that there may be strong reactions to the film in Pakistan and even the cast had expressed fears, but the overwhelming response from critics and audiences alike was a pleasant surprise.
Asked why he had taken completely new stars, he said he had always done so on television shows as well, since he felt more comfortable working with them. He said working with Naseeruddin was a 'treat'.
The film, produced in conjunction with the films division of the Karachi-based network Geo TV is being released in India by Percept Picture Company. The film is about two brothers Mansoor and Sarmad who are pop musicians in Lahore. Sarmad gets radicalized under the influence of extremists while Mansoor goes to America and gets unlawfully detained after 9/11. The third central character in the movie is Mary (Maryam), a British girl of Pakistani origin, who is brought to Pakistan by her father and married off against her will after finding out that she has a British boyfriend, despite her father having been in a string of relationships in the UK with British women, and then there is Janie who marries Mansoor despite his being a Muslim and sticks by him in his most difficult moments.
But the scene stealers in the film are either Pakistani actor Shaan in the role of Mansoor or Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah, who appears as a whiff of fresh air towards the end of the film. The dialogues given to him to explain the true meaning of Islam - addressing the fundamentalists - are a treat to hear and led to loud ovation not only in India, but also in the Cairo and Muscat international film festivals where it won the best film award. It has also received the Roberto Rosellini Award in Italy.